NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Ready or not, here they come. The 2015 Saints' season is upon us, and both excitement and uncertainty are prevalent.
For the first time since 2006, I don't feel an overwhelming sense of confidence coming from the organization. That year, no one knew how good the team would be. They simply figured things out as the weeks added up. This year, I think they'll approach things the exact same way.
With that in mind, here's how I view this year's team.
Drew Brees. Drew Brees. Drew Brees.
Did I mention Drew Brees?
For those that thought that Brees had hit the downside of his career, I'd advise you to think again. Brees is still the best player on the team and is the main reason why I have not lost hope in this team's ability to compete and win.
Who is going to be the player to provide the steady pass rush? I still don't know the answer. Cam Jordan will certainly be expected to be that guy. We'll see if he is up to the challenge. I don't think the Saints have the personnel to be dominant in this area, but they must find a way to be decent.
The addition of Max Unger may be the best move the Saints have made all off-season. He brings such stability to the center of the line. The Saints have been considered one of the best screen teams in the NFL, and Unger will only help in this regard. I have never seen a lineman in the Sean Payton era get to the second and third level of the defense on screens as well as Unger does.
I didn't think Breaux would be this pivotal to the Saints off-season. They signed him from the CFL, and it's a good thing they did. Besides being an unreal story, Breaux has emerged as the team's third best cornerback and will now start with the injury to Keenan Lewis. They call him "vice grip" because of the way he locks on receivers. If he works out, which I think he definitely will, what a find for the Saints.
In all, 12 rookies are currently on the Saints' roster. That's a really high number. And a good percentage will be counted on to make an impact.
Here's how I would rank their impact:
1.) Hau'Oli Kikaha - Non-stop motor who may ultimately become the pressure guy in this defense.
2.) Stephone Anthony - Red-hot start to camp. He's fallen down to the earth a little, bit but I still think he makes an immediate impact.
3.) Marcus Murphy - Hard to ignore his impact in the return game. Plus, he gives the offense an added bonus with his running/receiving ability.
4.) Tyeler Davison - I really like him in the rotation along the defensive line.
5.) Damian Swann - Good enough to be in the rotation at cornerback. I like his aggressive nature even though it will lead to flags this season.
6.) Andrus Peat - He is not ready to unseat the incumbent, but I do think he's improved.
7.) Bobby Richarson - An undrafted rookie who burst on the scene in camp. Like Anthony, he slipped a little bit in the middle of the preseason, but I think he can be a solid rotation player.
8.) Davis Tull - Tull can be a dark horse in terms of making an impact. Of all the pass rushers on this team, I think Tull is the most athletic.
9.) Garrett Grayson - I am truly amazed at how many people have already given up on Grayson. He is a rookie in a complicated system. He is supposed to struggle somewhat. In fact, I think early mistakes can be the best thing that can happen to a quarterback in this system. Look at how well Ryan Griffin improved after his rookie year. Patience is the name of the game with Grayson.
10.) Kaleb Eulls - Steadily improved enough to make the roster.
11.) Tavaris Barnes - See Kaleb Eulls description.
12.) P.J. Williams- Injuries are forcing a redshirt for this rookie.
- I want to believe so badly in this secondary when they are finally healthy. I think they won't just be improved but also can become an upper-echelon unit around the NFL. That's the problem. No one knows exactly just how long it will be before that first team defensive backfield will be intact completely.
- One element that will be vastly improved this year is the return unit. I can't stress how important this will be. If you really examine the Saints' offensive numbers last year they hit their usual marks. Yards, first downs and third down conversions were all there. The difference was with a lack of takeaways on defense and nothing out of their return units, they were having to go 80-plus yards on nearly every drive. It makes a big difference.
- Great breakdown from Evan Woodbery, from our partners at the Times Picayune and NOLA.com, where he noted that 26 players on the 53-man roster were not with the team last year. The normal turnover is about 18-20%. This year that number is nearly 50%.
I don't know how good this team is going to be. But I do know they can win the NFC south, even with those unknowns. A favorable schedule and the division has me in the eight or nine win range.
I'll stay optimistic and go with 9-7.
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